Boat Life Isn’t Easy

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Our first year of living on a boat has pushed me both mentally and physically, more than I ever could have imagined. Peter and I love the life we have chosen, but we definitely have our challenges too.

“You don’t know your strength until you know your limits”

-Peter Pieschel, 2014

It took us awhile to get over the initial exhaustion of becoming liveaboards. It takes a LOT of work to live on a boat and for the first month we were just plain exhausted every day. We knew it would get easier and as the weeks passed by, everything eventually did get easier. A year later we are still dog-tired every night but we work and play even harder than before.

Here are just a few of the things that make life on a boat more challenging than it was for us on land:

  • Our muscles are constantly working to keep us balanced since the boat is always moving.
  • When we buy groceries, we have to take a taxi to and from the store, unload the groceries into the dinghy, transport everything out to where the boat is anchored, pass everything from the dinghy up and over the lifelines into the cockpit and down the 5′ vertical ladder into the depths of the boat, then try to make everything fit in the tiny and awkward storage spaces.
  • Sometimes we spend all day catching our own food from the sea.
  • We must be weary of real-life pirates and properly secure our boat, dinghy and belongings.
  • Safety is a priority and the utmost care must be taken to inspect every single component to ensure everything is in working order. Even something as small as a hose clamp could have catastrophic consequences if overlooked.
  • Making sure our anchor is properly set determines how well we sleep at night.
  • Squalls can be on us in a matter of minutes whether we are prepared or not.
  • We need enough wind to sail, but not too much so that it’s dangerous.
  • Our 150 lb dinghy  and outboard motor has to be hauled up on deck for long passages, and returned to the water when we are anchored.
  • Internet in foreign countries is often unreliable and weather reports may not be available.
  • We have to lift a ladder up onto the bed to get the dogs in and out of the cockpit.
  • We haul a 5-gallon bucket of salt water up on deck every time the dogs go potty to rinse the astro-turf.
  • Every time we want to get something out of the fridge we have to stretch our Gumby arms way down to the bottom, take everything out to get to what we want and then put all the other items back in.
  • When we want a pot or a pan, we have to get down on our hands and knees to get it from a locker underneath the stove which extends way down against the hull.
  • When we want to use the kitchen table we lift it down from its latched position against the bookshelf.
  • Taking a shower requires us to jump in the ocean to rinse, lather and repeat before we do a conservative final rinse with fresh water.
  • Power is needed for LOTS of things we once took for granted: lights, fans, radio, cell phone chargers, computers, hot water heater, dehumidifier, navigation instruments, coffee makers, microwave and air conditioning. We have to generate our own power with solar panels, a wind generator, or by running the engine or diesel generator.
  • We make our own water with a machine that converts salt water into fresh water, but only when we have enough power to run the machine.
  • If we need to supplement our water supply, we lug 6-gallon jerry jugs to and from shore, then lift them up onto the boat from the dinghy and slowly pour them into our tanks.
  • When something goes wrong, we have to be very innovative and creative to figure out how to fix it with the tools that we have at hand.
  • When we’re done using something, it has to be put away because there’s no room to leave clutter out and we don’t want it to roll away or break when the boat rocks from a passing wake.
  • When we use dishes, we have to wash them by hand every time we eat.
  • We have to be plumbers, electricians, mechanics, navigators, chefs, fishermen, sailors, excellent communicators and fun-havers.

Living on a boat is much different than living on land. There was a lot to get used to, but it has all become normal to us now. We absolutely LOVE our little home and we say it out loud to each other every day. Its hard work but SO worth it at the end of the day. We maintain our home in such a way to be able to travel across oceans, visit far off lands, and discover beautiful tropical beaches and crystal clear waters. We’re going Where The Coconuts Grow and the wind in our sails will take us there!

This journey has been an incredible education too. As the months go by we continuously learn so many new skills and we learn how to live with ‘less’ all around. We need the basics, safety equipment, gear, a few personal effects and all the rest is just stuff. Our priorities have definitely changed as we work on the boat every day and keep everything in ship-shape. We appreciate the little things we didn’t even notice before. We take a lot less for granted and our happiness increases by the minute.

We do get frustrated sometimes but I think we’re getting better about understanding that we’re both doing our best. Our patience with ourselves and with each other is growing too. Everything we do, we do it as a team and it seems much easier that way. We’re helping each other figure out how to do things we haven’t done before and it’s actually really fun! It’s hard at first to step outside of your comfort zone, but when you do, that’s where the magic happens :)

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After the initial exhaustion wore off a little, Peter has been my primary source of inspiration. His quote about strength and limits really did get me thinking and even though everything we do seems so hard, he always helps me to see things in a positive light instead. We really are stronger than we think we are, and as a good friend once said to me, we have to BELIEVE in ourselves!!

Peter and I have set sail on an adventure of a lifetime with our two dogs and we both feel so lucky that everything has just fallen into place.  It’s one of those moments where we know we’re in the right place at the right time and now is the perfect time in our lives to follow our dreams. We’re young, we are finding strength we didn’t know we had, and we’re throwing our fears and doubts aside in exchange for this amazing opportunity. What better time in our lives than now to travel and see the world? There’s so much beauty and joy out there just waiting to be shared.

We hope our adventures will inspire others to take a leap of faith, step outside your comfort zone and find out where the magic happens. Dreams really do come true, if you believe!!

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

 

Favorite Things

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Just a few days ago I joined in on a conversation about favorite kinds of coffee mugs for living on a boat. It seemed like kind of a silly question at first, but I started to think about it a little more. I listened to what several others had to say and one comment really stood out to me.

…even if it means having to pick another.

You see… when I first started downsizing in preparation for moving onto a sailboat, I had more things to consider than just how much will fit. Boat life requires a bit of extra planning.

Will it break?

When it does break, do I have something else that can work?

Will it rust?

Will it get moldy?

Will it fade in color?

Will it disintegrate from UV damage?

Will it tip over too easily?

Most liveaboards (people who live on a boat) recommend not bringing glassware or regular dishes on board. For the most part, boats are constantly in motion. While underway it’s very common for anything inside to go flying if not stowed properly with padding placed around breakable items. You know the term, “prepare for lift off,” well, we practice that on a boat too! Sometimes it’s just gonna be a bumpy ride!

Instead of ditching all my glassware and regular dishes, I decided to bring it along anyway and lovingly use each and every piece until they break. I mean, I do still have a vacuum :) It seemed silly to me to either get rid of or store all of my dishes that I spent my hard earned money on and trade them for cheap plastic stuff. Why spend the extra money on going out to buy plastic when I can just use what I have? Sometimes it makes all the difference using a real plate instead of a flimsy, soggy paper plate or a plastic one that has knife marks slashed all over it.

Well, the same goes for a coffee mug. I absolutely LOVE drinking my morning coffee. I’m originally from Seattle… are you surprised? Travel mugs are great but it’s just not the same as holding onto a heavy ceramic mug with one handle and feeling the warmth soak into my hands. It’s that moment, on a cold wintery day, sipping on a sweet white-chocolate-toasted-marshmallow-nonfat-latte, that brings instant comfort to my soul. Do you know the feeling? Even though I now live in the tropics Where The Coconuts Grow, I still LOVE drinking my hot coffee every morning and it brings me JOY!

So back to the original question… My dear friend Tammy replied, “I brought ceramic mugs with wide bottoms (sailing motifs) and a few of my favorite mugs from home when we moved aboard. We’ve lived aboard for two years now and have just had to say goodbye to the second of my faves due to small cracks. I don’t know if they would have eventually broken on land or not… but I have enjoyed having my ‘favorite’ every day on the boat, even if it means having to pick another.” **

I love that! Even if it means I have to pick another… You nailed it Tammy. I’ve also found now that I have spent a good amount of time living on the boat, I’m less attached to THINGS! Stuff breaks all the time and it’s no one’s fault, really. It’s hard enough getting around on a boat without bumping my head or stubbing my toe or drawing blood without even knowing it, let alone preventing things from breaking. Everything breaks on a boat. It’s okay though because they’re just things. When things break, it’s real simple on a boat. Either fix it, or find something else.

Just because I live in a tiny and unforgiving space doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice my favorite things. Like I have explained before, it’s okay to hold on to sentimental things simply because they make me happy. It’s very likely that I’ll find room for them no matter how much space I’m working with. On the flip side, if a sentimental item is accidentally destroyed, I don’t let it ruin my day. I can choose to hold on to the sentimental memories and know that I thoroughly enjoyed that item as long as I could.

My life is so much more simple now. I am not able to just hop in the car and drive to the store to buy another whatchamacallit. It’s much easier to just use what I have and make it work. And if my favorite coffee mug breaks, I’ll just get a new favorite!

**Quoted with permission from Tammy Swart. Tammy and her husband Bruce live and cruise on a 45′ sailboat, Dos Libras, with their two cats. You can see Tammy’s Tiny Floating Home on her blog, Things We Did Today.

What are a few of your favorite things?

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

Adjusting To Simplicity

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When Peter and I first started dating, we would take weekend trips to the Eastern Sierras to go camping. We would look up at the stars and talk for hours about how we wanted to live a simpler life. We talked about one day living on a sailboat and traveling around to all the most beautiful and remote islands, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city life we had grown so accustomed to. We were both tired of living life according to what society thinks is normal. We wanted something different.

Just last year, circumstances aligned and we had the opportunity to buy a boat and leave our old jobs behind. We found our tiny floating home on the West coast of Florida and moved full steam ahead downsizing and preparing our belongings to move across the country, towing near everything we own in a small gutted pop-up trailer.

With excitement spilling out of us, Peter and I and our two big dogs spent a few days getting familiar with our new tiny home. All the storage spaces are irregular shapes and it was like a giant puzzle trying to make all of our belongings fit. Although thoughtfully engineered, each and every space on the boat was much smaller than we were used to. We stubbed our toes and hit our heads daily. Our muscles ached from climbing around like monkeys. Living compactly inside a sailboat with comparably 360 square feet of living space definitely required an adjustment to the way we function on a daily basis.

Suddenly, the reality hit that we were now living with significantly LESS STUFF. The items we couldn’t part with were stored on the other side of the country back in San Diego, and we only had the few items we brought with us. Gone were the days of walking into a closet to pick out clothes for the day, or walking out to the garage for the exact tool needed amidst a lifetime collection of useful things. We had brought the bare minimum we thought we would need to sail away for an indefinite period of time.

Immediately our boat began to feel like home. It was as if a huge wave of relief had come over us. We were less overwhelmed by superfluous space and stuff. If there was a mess on the floor, it’s because we were actively working on a project and needed those things out. There is exponentially less room on a boat for clutter and the kind of stress generated from having ‘too much’ just magically disappeared. We became more focused on the present moment and our every day experiences.

Although Peter and I had zero sailing experience, we knew that a sailboat was the most economical way to travel around to all the places we wanted to see. We didn’t let the fear of the unknown scare us away from our primary goal. We chose a simpler life and took on the challenge of learning many new skills in order to make it all happen, regardless of how scary it sounded. We learned how to generate electricity from the sun and the wind, how to make fresh water from the ocean and how to propel ourselves with the sails. We learned how to navigate with charts and communicate with long range radio signals. We learned how to read the weather and how to rely on ourselves to harvest food from the sea.

It has been amazing to see how little we actually use, and subsequently how little we actually need. We get by just fine with what we have, without being left wanting for more. We have a small home to call our own, filled with all the things that really matter and it allows us to appreciate those things even more. Sentimental items and favorite belongings carefully placed throughout our tiny home provide emotional comfort apart from the outside world. We love our little home, more than we ever thought we could.

It has been an amazing journey that is teaching us to appreciate the world and ourselves in a new way. We are growing stronger both mentally and physically, and experiencing things we never thought possible. Choosing a life less ordinary and getting back to basics has proven to be the most rewarding and amazing opportunity I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN ADJUSTING TO SIMPLICITY

  1. PURPOSE – Take a moment to remember why you chose to live a simpler life. After making a major life adjustment like downsizing or moving to a smaller space, it can be difficult to adjust to such a radical change. Remind yourself on a daily basis of why you chose simplicity in the first place. Was it to eliminate stress? Was it to acquire more time for the important things? Was it to allow yourself more freedom to move around?
  2. PATIENCE – Be patient with yourself. Try to avoid getting frustrated with this new way of living. It can often be a challenge to complete a common task with fewer tools or less space than you’re used to. Just try to do your best. It will get easier with time.
  3. INTIMACY – Allow yourself to become familiar with your belongings and your home on an intimate level. Appreciation and gratitude will grow in you for both the small and large things that make up your life.
  4. CREATIVITY – Get creative with your actions and find new and innovative ways to do more with less. Challenge yourself to use what you have instead of feeling like you need to buy something new.
  5. INSPIRATION – Find inspiration from others who are successfully living a simple life. Learn the possibilities and dream big. Share your inspiration with others too. In sharing your joy and helping others find simplicity, you will ultimately find more appreciation for your own new way of life.

In what ways have you adjusted to simplicity? Leave a comment and share your inspiration!

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]